11 August, 2008

SAP NetWeaver Collaboration Portal - What's coming?

My previous post outlined some important differences between Microsoft SharePoint and SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Portal. At this point in time, both products have some distinct advantages over the other. In a nutshell, SharePoint is superior for people-oriented collaborative activities and unstructured data, NetWeaver Portal is superior for process-oriented transactional activities and structured enterprise data.

Because of these differences in core strengths, many organisations are adopting a dual portal strategy with the aim of leveraging the best of both worlds. On the other hand, many IT managers are dreaming of a world where one portal rules them all and they only have to worry about supporting one technology.

From this perspective it is interesting to follow what is coming up in future releases from the two software giants, as there is no doubt that both Microsoft and SAP have ambitions to tread more on each other's turf in the portal space.

SAP is currently investing in delivering more collaboration features on the NetWeaver Portal. Some limited information on those upcoming features are available on SDN. In summary, these are some of the new features that will be delivered as enhancement packs on top of the NetWeaver Portal 7.0 infrastructure:

  • Team Workspaces
    Essentially a new version of the collaboration rooms. Interesting change of terminology to a more "SharePoint-like" name.
  • Forums
    Aimed at community-driven sites.
  • Wikis
    More comprehensive than SharePoint's current standard wiki template and they include some interesting features such as user ratings. A slide deck with more details can be found here.
  • Tagging
    Documents, users and iViews can be tagged with searchable keywords.
  • User business cards
    Allowing users to share more information about themselves.
  • SharePoint integration
    An interesting one. Not much detail is available on what exactly this will entail other than facilitating NetWeaver Portal as an entry point to content in distributed SharePoint repositories. Obviously, the idea here is to become the "portal of portals."

It will be interesting to see whether and how well these features will help NetWeaver Portal to catch up on SharePoint in the collaboration space.

10 August, 2008

SharePoint versus NetWeaver Portal

With SharePoint on its way to becoming the de facto collaboration portal in the corporate context, many large enterprises are ending up with two portal technologies within their infrastructure, Microsoft SharePoint and SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Portal.

As I'm increasingly getting involved in discussions with customers around portal strategies and choosing between SharePoint and NetWeaver Portal, I've been identifying some high-level differences between the two technologies from various perspectives. The aim of this blog post is to compare and contrast the portal capabilities of SharePoint and NetWeaver. The following statements are not intended to be literal but rather aimed at emphasising the primary strengths of the two products.

SharePoint is horizontal. NetWeaver is vertical.
Out of the box, SharePoint does not deliver any business solutions. It is a platform for collaborative applications, a horizontal layer that sits behind your desktop applications. NetWeaver exposes business data and functionality residing in the ERP system, vertical access points into the back-end.

SharePoint for unstructured data. NetWeaver for structured data.
SharePoint provides a toolset for managing collaborative content. It's a focal point for all the everyday interactions between individuals and the content they collaborate on. NetWeaver is the place for business data and functionality of core business processes.

SharePoint is designed around people. NetWeaver is designed around business processes.
The NetWeaver Portal is designed around business processes. The whole purpose of the NetWeaver Portal is to expose the data and functionality of SAP. SharePoint on the other hand was not designed with any specific back-end system in mind. It's designed around how people collaborate and communicate. From a usability perspective, SharePoint is often the lowest common denominator.

SharePoint is a productivity tool. NetWeaver is an enabler.
Microsoft positions SharePoint as part of their suite of productivity tools. Hence, SharePoint is more about how you do things as opposed to what you do. The Office clients (Word, Excel, etc.) are about individual productivity, SharePoint is about team productivity. The NetWeaver Portal is first and foremost an enabler. It's another user interface to SAP data and functionality.

SharePoint has seamless integration with desktop tools. NetWeaver has seamless integration with the back-end.
SharePoint is the server cornerstone of the Office suite of applications and delivers additional capabilities to your everyday productivity tools. NetWeaver is closely tied to the SAP back-end, exposing enterprise data and functionality.

SharePoint is a collaboration oriented environment. NetWeaver is a transaction oriented environment.
The product features provided by SharePoint are aimed at improving collaboration between people. The NetWeaver Portal is designed around SAP transactions.